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Catalyst Sports acts as change agent

Catalyst Sports acts as change agent ‘We want to be able to tell people yes’

ATLANTA – Catalyst Sports, a nonprofit that gives people with disabilities access to “life-changing adventure opportunities,” plans to launch an adaptive climbing clinic in Louisville, Ky., in June, expanding its presence to eight cities. 

The organization, which was featured during a recent webcast hosted by NCART, already has operations in Atlanta and Augusta, Ga.; Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Washington, D.C. 

“Since (launching in 2012), we have had therapists from different communities saying, ‘Hey, we want what you’ve created,’ and ‘Can you help us get there,’” said Eric Gray, founder and executive director, who is also an ATP and CRTS. “These are just passionate therapists who are connected with their community and believe in the impact of these types of sports for individuals with disabilities.”

Catalyst Sports got its start offering adaptive climbing clinics but now offers other activities, as well, like adaptive biking, kayaking and skiing.

The organization also seeks sponsors for a tour in the fall, when it plans to travel to all eight cities with 10 adaptive bikes in tow.

“These mountain bikes have three shocks and e-assist, and retail at $17,000,” Gray said. “They’re not going to have the means to purchase these bikes, so that’s where we come in to give them the opportunity.”

Longer-term, Catalyst Sports wants to expand its fleet of adaptive bikes so it can offer them on a more regular basis in each city.

“We had a C4/C5 come (to one of our adaptive biking clinics) and she said, ‘I haven’t ridden a bike in 30 years and I haven’t been outside in nature like this in 20 years, and today is the first opportunity to do it on my own,” Gray said. “We all know the benefits of being outside in nature. That’s what Catalyst is trying to do – knock down those barriers and provide access to nature.”

Gray got the idea for Catalyst Sports after working at a VA hospital with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who needed “something to fill that adrenaline rush.” He built a climbing wall attached to the hospital, then went on to lead a group of disabled vets on a hike up the Grand Teton, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“We want to be that catalyst that provokes change in someone’s life,” he said. “We want to be able to tell people yes when they’ve been told no so many times.”


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